Recently my 9yo decided she was uncomfortable with receiving front hugs and kisses on her cheek from her 7yo brother. We talked about it in depth so I could know best how to support her and she didn’t have a reason why, she just requested that they do side hugs and blow kisses instead. So I made it clear that her brother needed to respect that. Since then, they’ve been gladly side hugging and blowing all sorts of kisses.
Some might ask, why? What’s so wrong about a hug and kisses from your brother? He wasn’t being hateful, he was loving and sweet and just wanted to show her how much he cared for her through his tender physical affection!
Absolutely nothing is wrong with hugs and kisses – unless you don’t want it.
In that moment (as many times before), I showed my daughter she can voice her discomfort and that there is nothing wrong with it – that it should be honored even if she doesn’t have an explanation as to why. I also showed my son that he needs to respect someone when they say they are uncomfortable and it’s not up for negotiation or argument. It’s not a time to convince why one’s motive should merit retrieval of such physical affection nor is it the time to change someone’s mind about how they feel about it. It’s not about the hug, it’s about respect and honor. It’s about showing our kids how to speak up and value one another so they can do the same as adults.
We’ve done this since they were little. Sometimes, their no’s aren’t always honored by Daddy and I (you will go to bed at bedtime, you will do your jobs, you will go change your underwear, etc. lol), but when it comes to them being tickled or hugged tightly or chased after in fun, they know that if they want it to stop, that’s what they say, and we’ll stop. We want them to speak boldly and we want them to make themselves heard. The word polite is not in the Bible. They don’t have to appease anyone with hugs when it makes them uncomfortable. They can kindly (honestly, clearly, boldly, respectfully, and lovingly) state they do not want to hug. And that is good and right.
It is wrong to expect a child to hug you when they don’t want to. Imagine if a person walked up to you and wanted you to hug them, but you felt uncomfortable? Should you be forced to hug them? How about kiss them? Absolutely not. And you should be able to say no thank you, guilt free. Why is this such an odd concept in regards to our children? We are teaching them in all that we do – and don’t do. Don’t make kids hug when they don’t want to. Not extended family, nor friends, nor siblings. Teach them they can say no when they don’t want to be touched.
Oh and if anyone tells my kid to keep a secret from me or hugs them despite their clear no – you bet your ass I’m going to set you straight on it. You hugging a child without their consent may not be sexual assault, but you are teaching a child to be afraid to voice their discomfort and setting them up to be meat for a predator on the prowl for their next victim. Don’t discourage a child’s boldness in saying “I’m uncomfortable.” And certainly don’t break their bond of safety with their parents where they can go to share when they feel they are in an unsafe situation.